Stop predicting the death of content marketing

PR is Dead

Makes for a sexy headline, right?

Communications pros can be quick to declare the death of fields and approaches.

With the rise of digital media, marketing and PR were declared ‘dead’ on more than one occasion. Over the last decade, new technologies and communication processes have forced us to let go of traditional strategies and tactics in favor of increasingly interactive, customer-focused communication. As such, our efforts have evolved substantially, but the fields of marketing and PR remain intact.

Content marketing has emerged as an effective way to connect with our stakeholders using relevant and valuable content to drive traffic and sales. PR and marketing training sites have been abuzz identifying the best content marketing strategies, and organizations have created new positions or hired external consultants to address the growing need for good content

And yet, people are already starting to predict the demise of content marketing. That didn’t take long.

Here are a few reasons why content marketing is here for the long haul:

Content marketing has actually been around for ages. It may not have had a label, but people have been using content to elicit a call to action for years. Recently, we’ve had to step up our game to make it more interesting, funny, surprising or solution-oriented. This is largely due to the fact that audiences are inundated with so many messages – there is a greater need for content to stand out.

Good storytelling will always be important. People are always looking for good stories, funny photographs, interesting videos, etc. Whether you are a fashion company, a tech firm or a local business, your stories can make you more relatable to your followers.

Content is at the heart of social media. Your social media engine won’t run without good content. It gives your audience something to talk about and share with their networks.

The end objectives remain the same. In the end, you want people to feel connected to your brand or organization in a way that will stimulate them to choose you and share their positive experience with other people.

It’s audience-focused. If done right, content marketing is centered around your audience. They will always need information to make decisions, whether it’s buying a car, deciding where to go for dinner or choosing a charity to volunteer for. Engaging content that is focused on the needs and preferences of your target audience will help your brand thrive.

Content marketing is not a medium. VHS may no longer be around, but people still want to watch movies. You may not get the newspaper delivered to your door, but you are still check out the daily news on your smartphone. Technologies may disappear, but audiences’ thirst for stimulating information about products and services will not.

Evolution is natural. I think we need to stop predicting the ‘death’ of fields and processes. They are not extinct, just continuously evolving and taking on taking on different forms which may require new strategies and skill sets. This may be a less dramatic way of looking at things that makes for less sexy headlines, but it’s more realistic.

Content marketing is here to stay. So let’s keep doing our research, learning about our audiences, and re-inventing ourselves with the new technologies, tools and tactics that become available to us.

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How content can help make your employees your best brand ambassadors

The HR sections of company websites have long cited people as their most important resource. After all, it is the sum of your employees’ dedication, collaboration and hard work that yields organizational success. When employees love and believe in their work they ultimately perform better.

Sharing.jpgIn the age of social media, the impact of employee satisfaction, engagement and love for your organization is even greater, because they can share it. Employees are your best brand ambassadors. They are friends with your customers, prospects and investors, and what they say about your brand in their news feeds will have more impact than the content that comes out of your corporate pages or paid ads.

Why? Because customers trust your employees more than your organization as an entity.

This is why you should leverage the power of your employees as influencers. Content can help you do this because it gives them something to talk about.

Here’s how you do it:

Collect awesome stories. It’s not enough that employees know your company’s mission, vision and brand story. They need to know about the everyday happenings that make your brand so special. Tales of stellar customer service, community outreach, or employee excellence need to be found and told, whether it’s through an internal portal, newsletter, social media site or a combination. These stories may not always be packaged impeccably like the ones told by the marketing team, but they are real – and people gravitate towards that.

Find the best way to share stories with your employees. Discover which channels your employees prefer using and share your stories there. Do your homework. Make sure you are offering news that interests them, in a format that doesn’t make them feel like they are doing extra work. This means nixing the 5000-word PDF newsletter in favor of short snappy lists, videos, quick facts, tweet chats or photos with captions.

Empower them to use social media. Encourage your people to be active on social media and trust that they will use it for good. Provide them with social media guidelines that highlight appropriate usage. Giving your employees the freedom to take mini social media breaks during the day allows them to relax a little, keep up with the news and connect with their contacts. The latter can have a positive impact on your brand when your employees share and endorse organizational content.

Ask your employees for feedback. Ask employees to share their own work stories and provide incentives to do so. Your people are in the trenches every day and often have the best story ideas – you just have to find them. Get their input on the storytelling and sharing process as well. You can do this through formal surveys, feedback forms and focus groups or informal chats with various team members.

Involving your employees in content production and dissemination makes them feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. It allows them to share their organizational pride with their personal networks while boosting your brand’s visibility. Your organization will greatly benefit from this more organic way of spreading news.

Re-post: #blackout Super Bowl ad = success on Twitter

prweek:

When half of New Orleans’ Superdome went dark last night during Super Bowl XLVII, some marketers turned to the audience on social media and sent well-timed tweets to capitalize on the unexpected 34-minute game delay. Oreo tweeted an on-the-fly ad that read, “Power out? No problem,” with an image of a cookie and the tagline, “You can still dunk in the dark.” It has since been retweeted 14,000 times. Tide also sent out a tweet that read, “We can’t get your #blackout, but we can get your stains out.”

According to Twitter, more than 24.1 million tweets were sent during the Super Bowl. The blackout garnered 231,500 tweets per minute and Beyoncé’s halftime performance received 268,000 tweets per minute.

Marketing is dead?!

The other day I was reading an article in the October issue of Canadian Business magazine on how we should not believe that advertising has become a perfect science. The author, Bruce Philp, emphasizes the potential pitfalls of relying on algorithms, analytics and statistics alone to determine what consumers want.

He makes reference to an article published in the Harvard Business Review blog this past August that made the bold proclamation, “Marketing is dead.” I have to agree with Philp when he says – “It’s not dead yet.” In fact, there are several aspects of marketing as a discipline that will never die.

The advent of social media has changed a lot of what marketers and communicators do and how they do it. Some organizations and brands have done a fantastic job of embracing these changes and creating improved, digitally enabled versions of themselves. Others have had a hard time letting go of traditional marketing and communications strategies, and have lagged behind as a result.

However, the establishment of new technologies, vehicles and strategies does not necessarily require us to completely let go of previous methods. Marketing after all is not just about advertising, sales and promotion. It is about research, consumer behaviour, branding and competition. I am pretty sure all of these aspects are still alive and crucial.

Marketing as a discipline is not dead – it has just evolved. It is taking on different forms, and requires different strategies and skills sets – but the end goal is still fundamentally the same.

As technology continues to evolve at what appears to be a warp speed, we will continue to hear similar assertions of the “demise” of different disciplines and vehicles (i.e. journalism, television, radio etc.). I prefer to think of it, moreover, as a natural selection process.

And although some of these deaths will be veritable and inevitable, others will simply represent new chapters in the lives of these areas.

I believe marketing as we know it has changed – but marketing as a discipline will live on in several forms.

Journos and PRs: A love-hate relationship

The PR practitioner/journalist relationship is a topic of scholarly research as well as discussion on blogs, Twitter chats (see #muckedup#journchat#RaganSocial), and websites on the field of public relations. For PRs at the centre of these discussions, lies the question: what do journalists want? 

One would think that this is easy to answer: they are looking for a story; something that is unique, that captures human interest and that speaks to their audience.

However, it is not as simple as that. In a digital world, journalists are inundated with countless cookie-cutter press releases and pitches every day, and now receive them from multiple channels: email, Twitter, DMs, Facebook, telephone, etc. They are working in a 24-hour news cycle where content is king. Studies and consultants recognize the importance of rich content such as images, video, infographics and opinions to support stories.

How can PR pros break through the clutter? How do we avoid becoming that “annoying flack” that journalists want to ignore?

My daily interactions with journalists, a great deal of reading on PR blogs and sites and some pitching successes and failures have allowed me to gain a better understanding of what journalists are looking for from PR practitioners; however, it has also made me realize that there is no one recipe for success.

The changes this dynamic is experiencing with the advent of social media and the shifts in contemporary newsrooms continue to fascinate me, which is why I am doing my MA thesis on how to optimize the journalist/PR practitioner relationship in the digital era. My objective is to aggregate literature on this topic and conduct interviews with journalists in order to determine which practices could lead to mutually satisfying relationships. Whew!

My research (so far) in a nutshell…

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Stay tuned!